If I feel close to this animal, it’s because I helped dig up its bones. They weren’t ready yet, having only cured in the soil for eight or so months and still had bits of fat attached to them, more work for the enzymes to do. When done, my colleague Peter Wayne Moe and I hauled them up to the rooftop of a nearby academic building to bleach in the sun.
I hefted the enormous jaw up to him via aluminum ladder and smiled, over the next year, to think of the students going in and out of that building, oblivious to the fact that they read or performed experiments, or whatever they did in class, mere feet below a whale carcass.
Eventually, with a group of students, he built the thing into a full skeleton and hung it in the atrium.
I love so much about this project it is hard to know where to start. I love that SPU is the sort of school where an interdisciplinary group like this could have such an experience. I love that the class was offered by an English professor (Moby Dick, etc.). Where else but a private liberal arts university would even consider such an undertaking? I love the way the class was taught, with students drilling whale vertebrae in the morning, and in the evening attending lectures by a panoply of experts, considering whales from different points of view. I love that I got to give one of the lectures, for the “Whale Skeletal Articulation” class on Poetry and Whales which you can view here. I love that my own children got to be so close to the process; here they are playing at being fish food–would Jonah really fit?– before it was raised.
Dr. Moe has written a book about the experience and about whales generally which you can order here. Oh, and I love that the cover photo of his book is by the same artist as the cover of mine! What times!
Okay, check that book out–we’re scheming a reading tour as the world returns–if it eventuates, I promise to let you know first.
Next, I just wanted to highlight some work being done by my other department colleagues. As I’m sure I told you before, as long as I’ve wanted to teach, I wanted to do it at SPU, and now that I am, I’m still pinching myself. Part of the reason is the breadth of expertise exhibited just behind the doors on my hall.
Here are some of the recent contributions made by my English Department peers:
We are not a large department by any measure, so to me, this is a deeply impressive haul! Nice work, team!
This fun little book collects Leavis’ prose writing and was recommended by my friend Jennifer Maier.
I read these every year when they come out. The series is that rare thing true to its name. Despite that I’m never included * wink * I think they really are the best of these genres.
…aloud to my children, who I think are old enough now.
That’s it for now, you beauties. Drop me a line if you want and let me know how it is.